When it comes to the safety of commercial vehicles, nothing is higher priority for Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC. Headquartered in Elyria, Ohio, Bendix manufactures air brake charging and control systems and active safety systems for all markets of commercial vehicles.
Taking care of commercial vehicles and drivers isn’t the only priority for Bendix — the company is also focused on taking care of the environment. According to Maria Gutierrez, Bendix’s health, safety, and environmental manager, all four of the company’s manufacturing facilities are ISO 14001 certified, meaning that they have in place environmental management systems that continuously measure and improve impact. On Nov. 14, Bendix announced an impressive achievement: The company, with 2,700 employees across four locations, had netted a 92 percent waste divergence rate. The success goes beyond just reducing Bendix’s contribution to landfills; it is an integral part of the firm’s new remanufacturing business unit.
Taking Out the Trash
The effort began in 2002. Bendix was tracking and reducing industrial waste from production activity, including both hazardous and non-hazardous waste. “From 2002 to 2007, we were able to reduce around 60 percent total tonnage of industrial waste sent offsite for disposal,” Gutierrez says.
However, in 2008, she noticed that something had been overlooked. “The trash we generated was significant,” she says. It wasn’t just the volume of garbage being thrown away and sent to landfills that was shocking — the amount of money being spent to haul Bendix’s trash away was far greater than had been estimated. “At that point, we began including trash as part of our waste numbers,” Gutierrez says.
The biggest waste numbers came from the company’s California plant, which was also its smallest operation. (The facility has since been relocated to Acuña, Mexico, for unrelated reasons.)
The bulk of Bendix’s trash was made of wood, paper, plastic and steel. More so, much of it also came from packaging from its suppliers. In addition to recycling, Bendix worked with its suppliers to provide returnable packaging.
Gutierrez insists that getting buy-in from management was a simple matter of letting the data do the talking. “We put the numbers in front of the leadership. The amount of money that was being thrown away [to] people to take our trash away made an impact. Comparing sites also was important,” she says.
If You Rebuild It…
As Bendix’s waste divergence efforts picked up steam, the company realized an opportunity to combine the challenge with an existing business strategy. Bendix had been remanufacturing core products for more than 35 years, including compressors, air dryers and valves. In August 2011, it launched its remanufacturing business unit, headed by Director Henry Foxx. The decision, like the one to reduce landfill waste, was more than just environmentally driven — it also made sound financial sense.
Remanufacturing allows Bendix to take worn or damaged products and bring them back within specification, while offering a more cost-effective alternative to a straight replacement. Earlier this year, the company brought serial production of remanufactured brake shoes in-house, establishing the Bendix Brake Shoe Remanufacturing Center in Huntington, Ind. “Used brake shoes are returned to Bendix, and the old friction material is removed. Then the brake shoe is cleaned, coined, painted, and a new friction material is riveted to the shoe,” Foxx explains. “In the event that an old shoe cannot be salvaged, it is sold as clean metal scrap, which is recycled.”
The remanufacturing business has been a success on all fronts. Foxx says that customers enjoy the cost savings associated with buying remanufactured products. In addition, Bendix diverts more than 8 million pounds of material from landfills as a result of the business. “We salvage somewhere between 70 and 85 percent of the content,” says Foxx. “What we do not salvage, we sell so that it will be used and not sent to a landfill.”
Foxx is also proud of the remanufacturing business for another reason. He says, “It creates local jobs. The requirement to ship core back limits the opportunity to send these kinds of jobs offshore.”
Perhaps Bendix’s greatest challenge with its waste divergence efforts is where to go next. The firm had targeted a 21 percent reduction in its total carbon footprint by 2014; Gutierrez says the company reached that goal this year.
“We are striving to be a zero-waste landfill company,” adds Gutierrez. “In Europe, they have stopped sending waste to landfill due to lack of space and have a greater awareness of the environment. We want to do that.”
For other manufacturing businesses looking to initiate their own waste divergence programs, Gutierrez offers this advice: “Look at the data. Go after low-hanging-fruit activities you think you may be doing but are not.” She further advises engaging staff — particularly those on the plant floor — similar to the way you would for safety issues. “They have to separate the trash and turn off the lights in rooms that are not used.”